Tinsel Necklaces

The wind had dropped by this morning so I could walk the Prom. The weather forecast, however, had lied. It rained, snowed, sleeted and hailed. The air was bitterly cold. And I walked with my hands in my pockets to stop them from freezing. It impedes my striding though and I feel less steady when I do so. But the air cuts through my gloves, particularly when I turn the bend at the war memorial and head towards the harbour. There was lots of revellers out. Some without coats. And one girl, a tiny wee strip of thing, was in a sleeveless all-in-one shorts outfit. She stumbled about in giant platform soles. How can she not feel the cold? I would be blue and shivering. Is it the booze that makes them oblivious to bodily needs? Two people, a girl and boy, came out of The Pier Pressure nightclub wearing tinsel round their necks. Tinsel necklaces, one red the other gold. They sparkled under the streetlights, the wind making them scintillate.

An array of Christmas cards and decorations had been stuck on one of Bodalwyn Guest House’s two front windows. I stopped to look at them. They were all home-made, clearly by a child or children. There were cards, little santas with free moving legs and various other Christmas symbols. I recognised the ubiquitous use of sugar paper, cotton wool and glitter. They were charming, and were either recently made or had been treasured and preserved with loving care. Were they donations from the children or the house, or perhaps grandchildren? All the pretty bits of the decorations were stuck so that they faced the street, leaving the backsides to face inwards, into the living room, I presume. Is it their own, private living room or are such fare for the benefit of the guests too? I remember bringing back such things from school, days long before fridge magnets, and wondering what happened to them. They were never hung, never displayed. In those days you didn’t celebrate everything your child did. No paint encrusted offerings in the kitchen then. I was touched that someone had cherished this child’s drawings. It stopped me still. I breathed in delight.

There is joy still. For all the bleakness, there is a strata of joy that never leaves me. It can become obscured but it is always there. A trust. A faith. A certainty. It is beyond the workings of my mind, which at times I have to admit is a devil. I noticed from the newspaper that the Lord’s Prayer is going to be changed and the devil, not us, is to be held responsible for our sins. What is that about? Is he not an illusion, merely a trick of the light. It’s opposite. And are there really any sins? Ach, too philosophical for this time in the morning, and besides, what do I know? Nothing. Zilch. Talking about philosophical questions, I had a text from my niece last night asking me if I will ‘talk’ to one of her students about ‘what makes something art’. Glory be, where do you start? Of course. Of course, I will. I used to get loads of emails from students when I was making the paper works. There was no awe, just an expectation that you would deliver. Not so now. My work is too oblique for them these days. It’s gone beyond. And I am happy for it to have done so. All is right. All is well.

Work now and coffee. Onwards.

She was very chatty yesterday. It’s lovely to hear her being so cheerful. Her daughter has hung the lights outside the house. I asked if they were prepared for snow. Yes, she says, we’ve got enough for a week. You know, some tins, gluten-free flour and so on. Good. Keep cosy. Keep safe.

Enough. Two more pieces to go. Then done.

The chair looks lovely. Perfect whiteness. We were both edgy about getting it back in the house. So together and yet so separate. I want to save him such grief. Can I?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.